Friday, September 30, 2011

The best things about fall

Sometimes I have to remind myself that the activities I think I just don't have the energy to do, often end up energizing me more than I thought possible.

It's funny how that happens.

Thursday evening, for example, the kids wanted to play football after dinner.

Front yard football is a game Jeff is usually more than happy to play with the kids.

But Jeff was working.

And I was exhausted.

But I knew it would be far better for the kids to run around outside, rather than plop themselves in front of the TV for an hour, and so out the door we went.

As AJ and Gus raced around the yard, Sydney took time to appreciate the effect of the rain and wind earlier in the day. Picking up some of the brightly colored leaves, she exclaimed, "It's really fall!" 

I think that's when it hit me - one of the things I love about my kids. They have an amazing way of reminding me of the really cool things I forget are so special. They encourage me to stop worrying about the big picture and instead to simply stop and enjoy the moment.

Fall is an absolutely gorgeous time. But rather than savor the glory of all those bright red, orange and yellow colors, I tend to focus on the negatives. Like all the grey and white I'll be starting at until next May. And let's not forget the days are now shorter than the nights, and will only continue getting shorter for the next three months.

But winter isn't here, yet, and dreading it won't stall it's arrival. So why do I waste the energy thinking about it?

As my wise four-year-old pointed out, fall is here. And on evenings such as last night, when the temperature is still warm enough to play outside in light jacket, it would have been so very wrong to do anything other than race around the yard after an underinflated mini-football.

Super dog! Gus's position is wide retriever. He had so much fun running around and dodging the kids, he happily stayed in the yard the entire time.

As the game progressed, Sydney's competitive side kicked in. Enough with the pretty leaves. She wanted to score a touchdown! Taking advantage of her brother's tackle, she took off!

The more I think about it, the shorter days are the perfect length right now. We've got enough time to play after dinner, with a natural reminder of when it's time to go in and get ready for bed.

By the time we were done, I was feeling so much better. Thank you AJ and Sydney, for reminding me to stop and smell the crisp fall air.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Celebrating the birthday boy

Sing along everyone...

Happy Birthday to you.
Happy Birthday to you.
Happy Birthday dear Grandpa.
You're under attack!

Because really, is there any better way to celebrate a birthday, than with a three-generation Nerf Gun battle?

There was some intense, take-no-prisoners warfare in our living room Tuesday evening as the kids (ranging in age from 4 to 68) battled it out with Nerf guns, swords and shields. It was Grandpa Bill's birthday, and so after an awesome steak supper grilled by Jeff, it was time for the after-dinner entertainment. Watching the kids try to juggle a shield and plastic sword was good humor all on its own.

(Sorry for the fogged photo. My camera lens is having serious issues.)
Even Gus had to get in on the action.

Due most likely to a shortage of ammo (Gus loves to eat the little Nerf bullets) the gun battle eventually shifted to a sword fight.

At least it gave the kids to work off the sugar rush from the birthday cake.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Celebrating the birthday girl

It's the moment you've all been waiting for... (by "you", I mean my mom and dad, who I'm sure want to see the pictures) ... the recap of Jessica's belated birthday party.

I'd add a caption, but I don't know everyone's names. Mostly cousins. Some friends. Pretty much everybody 21 and younger who was at the party is squeezed into the photo.

The moment the younger kids all were waiting for was just about to take place.

Sing quickly and blow out the candles! There's cake and ice cream waiting!

For once, there was actually someone less patient than my children. I didn't get a picture, but Zane actually tried crawling across the table - more than once - to get at the cake. AJ, meanwhile, for all his excitement, held up the show a bit when he couldn't decide on what kind of ice cream he wanted. They had four different options! Uncle Steve graciously read the ingredients so AJ could be sure he wasn't going to accidentally pick one that tasted like peanut butter. Because that would be simply horrible. (No, he has no allergies. He just doesn't like the taste.)

Mmmm!!! So worth the wait!

A bit later, we headed to the volleyball court for a feeble attempt at vollying. I'm pretty sure the ball spent more time in the weeds than it did in the air, but it was still enough fun to top AJ's list as his favorite part of the day.

It doesn't seem possible that Jessica is 18. She's my little niece who was born just a few months before I moved to Duluth... who was Sydney's age when I first met Jeff. And now she's an adult. Welcome to the grown-up world, Jessica. It won't always be as fun as this day, but you're off to a great start!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Creative creation

What does a blue/yellow Play-Doh man, black and white streamers and a pink balloon have in common?

Apparently, something to do with creation.

I don't get it either.

In Sunday School, the kids are half-way through a five-week session focusing on God's creation. Sydney was very excited to show me her take-home treats. Holding up first the white streamer and then the black one, she explained, "This one is for day, and this one is night."

"That's cool," I answered. "What's the balloon for?"

"It's for you!"

What a nice non-answer.

I then turned to AJ, whose Play-doh creation suddenly seemed to make sense. "And I bet you learned about when God created man."

"Um, no," AJ said. "We were just supposed to think of something and I couldn't think so I just made this."

He should have stuck with my answer.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pizza party

It's safe to say, Sammy's Pizza has nothing to worry about. AJ's Pizza has a ways to go before it could be considered competition. Our masterpiece, while lovingly hand-crafted, poses no threat.

But it sure was a fun supper to create! With Jeff working Friday night, I declared it pizza, popcorn and a movie night. But not just any pizza would do. This pizza, we would make ourselves (with the help of a Pillsbury refrigerated pizza crust and store-bought pizza sauce. Hey - I said hand-crafted, not hand made.) Our fine pie featured pepperoni and Canadian bacon across it all, with mushrooms on half and onions on the other. Cutting up the mushrooms with my Pampered Chef slicer/dicer thing was AJ's favorite part, followed closely by slicing the finished product.

And then it was time for the movie. Sydney and I had picked up Rio earlier in the day. So we locked Gus in his kennel, dimmed the lights (not really), spread a blanket on the living room floor and enjoyed the children's version of dinner theatre.

All that time in the kitchen, or maybe it was just the chance to use cool utensils and food prep gadgets, seemed to inspire AJ's inner chef. After the movie, he set to work making "stew" for Jeff to eat when he got home from work. Starting with a bowl of water, AJ added more sliced mushrooms, some squished grape tomatoes (the wires on the slicer/dicer aren't sharp enough to penetrate tomato skins) and a couple of pea pods. Peering into the refrigerator for more ingredients, AJ decided all that was missing was a little milk.


"It tastes good, Mom," he assured me.

"Uh huh," I responded, unconvinced.

"Why do you just keep saying 'uh huh'?" AJ asked. (I'd used that same response when he'd announced some of the other ingredients.) "Don't milk and water mix together good?"

"Usually it just ends up tasting like watered down milk," I told him.

He sampled his masterpiece, insisting, "It's good."

"Uh huh."

A few minutes later AJ asked, "Where something I can use to scoop out the garbage?"

"What garbage?"

"You were right. It doesn't taste so good."

Undaunted, he decided to try something new. And this time, he did just fine. When Jeff got home from work, he found a bowl of raspberries topped with Cool Whip. And lest there be any doubt who this treat was for, AJ taped a note to the counter identifying "for dad".

On second thought, based on this experience, maybe Sammy's will see less business from one of its loyal customers. AJ is already asking when he can make another pizza.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A toothless spell

As a reporter, I was told there's no such thing as a stupid question. With AJ, I've learned there's no such thing as a simple question. Because you just never no where the answer will take you.

For purposes of this story, take note of the big plastic tooth charm hanging around AJ's neck. (Ignore the messy face.)

For instance, after working all week on his list of spelling words (this week's activities included typing the words on the computer and in different fonts/colors, and writing them down on notecards and making a memory game) I asked him how he did Friday on his spelling test.
"Um, okay, but I didn't finish."

"Why not?"

"Because I was at the nurse's office and I came back late."

"Why did you have to go to the nurse's office?"

"Um, because..." (His hands started flailing as they often do when he can't think of the words he wants to use. He sort of pointed at his teeth, then made a twisting motion with his hands.) "My tooth started bleeding because I, um, I was..." (More uninterpretable hand gestures.)

I can't remember his exact wording after that, but in a nutshell, he couldn't twist open his water bottle, so he'd tried using his teeth, which further loosened his loose tooth, which made it start to bleed. And so he was sent to the nurse's office. By the time he got back, his class had started the spelling test and his teached told him to just do as much as he could.

Never a simple answer.

"So did you lose your tooth?" I asked.

"No, but the nurse gave me this!" (He proudly held out the plastic tooth necklace.) "When I lose my tooth, I can put it in here and put it under my pillow."

Oh, wonderful! One more plastic treasure for Gus to chew up. How ironic that a tooth-shaped charm will meet it's doom between some pointy puppy teeth.

So that was Friday. Saturday morning, AJ must have been wiggling the tooth while watching TV because he suddenly came into the kitchen and announced, "My tooth came out! This is the first time ever I lost a tooth in the morning."

(Perhaps he remembered my warning from last time - when he lost his tooth 10 minutes before bedtime - that the tooth fairy needs a little advance warning to add our house to her list of visits.)

By my count, this is gap #5 in his smile. Hopefully it's the last for a while. According to AJ, he doesn't have any other wiggly teeth right now.

Which means he shouldn't have any excuse not to finish his spelling test next week.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Re: schedule

Every so often, I get the urge to write about something I think is important. Something deeper than just my kids' latest antics. Something universal that all - or at least a lot of - parents can relate to. But then I can't figure out how exactly to write it.

And now you know why it's been a couple days since I last wrote.

To quote a good friend, who has three busy kids' schedules to juggle (so compared to her, I have nothing to complain about), "Who the f#@* is able to make it to five o'clock games? Who's got a schedule like that?" Meanwhile, a co-worker who lives in rural Wisconsin figured out she'd need to leave work at 2 p.m. in order to get home, pick up her daughter and then turn around and make it to the five o'clock games that are scheduled in Hermantown twice a week.

Somehow knowing I'm not the only one in this situation makes me feel a little better. But not really.

Allow me to reflect on this past week. Wednesday, AJ had soccer practice at 6 p.m. The weather on Wednesday was pretty crappy, and so throughout the day I checked for an e-mail announcing practice was cancelled. Apparently I must not have checked after 4 p.m. Jeff brought the kids to me at work a little after 4:30. To compensate for road construction, and to make sure the kids got something to eat prior to 7:30, I left work a half hour early, stopped at Subway for sandwiches, and then headed with the kids to practice.

We actually made it to the field almost 10 minutes early. And then sat in the car because it was drizzling outside. And then we waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, at 6:02, I asked Sydney to hand me my phone, which I'd given her to play with back at my office to keep her busy while I finished some work. Sure enough, at 4:05, the cancellation e-mail had arrived.


Thursday, was even more fun.AJ had his final game of the year at 5 p.m., and  Sydney had dance at 5:15. (There was supposed to be an end-of-season pizza party immediately following the game, but in the Wednesday e-mail the coach announced he was post-poning it.) Jeff made arrangements to go in to work late, thank goodness, because I don't know how else we'd have made it work. Still, I left work an hour early to get to AJ's game. Jeff called while I was in transit saying he'd forgotten the chord AJ has to wear with his glasses, so I headed home first to grab it, and then at last made it to the game. AJ was already playing (this ref didn't seem to care about that rule.) Jeff was sporting the same expression I'd worn the day before. He'd just gotten back from dropping off Sydney, where he learned her dance class actually starts at 5, not 5:15. Oh yeah, and during the eight minutes she'd spent at AJ's soccer game, she'd managed to get mud all over her face and leggings, so he really appreciated the looks the other parents threw his way.

We watched the game together for about 20 minutes, and then I had to leave to pick up Sydney. It wasn't just the class' start time that was 15 minutes earlier than I realized. Of course this means during last week's crazy Thursday schedule, we weren't just a couple minutes late; we were almost 20 minutes late. That also explains why Sydney was waiting for me and all the other kids were gone when I showed up a little before 6 to pick her up. UGGGGHHH!!!)

As politely as I could, I asked the woman at the desk when the class time had shifted. She said it hadn't. I looked at the schedule with her and then realized that classes for Sydney's age group are offered three days a week. The Monday and Wednesday classes both start at 5:15. It's only Sydney's class that starts at 5. Ooohhhh! The woman had never realized it, and had no idea why that is.

Just. Swell.

So all my venting aside, both kids had a great time. Sydney loves wearing her tutu, and surprisingly prefers the ballet portion of the class to the tap dance part.

She learned a new position Thursday, called the "sailboat". She was happy to demonstrate it for me, though I suspect she doesn't quite have it nailed. 

AJ, meanwhile, had a good game. He played defense during the short time I was able to watch. He seems to not entirely understand what he's supposed to do in that role, beyond the obvious of preventing the other team from scoring. He seems to think his job is to be the back-up goalie, and often times ends up screening the teammate in that position.

It was when he tried to make a save by grabbing the ball we had to remind him he wasn't the goalie. I guess that's something he can work on next year.

In the meantime, we now have a month with a relatively easy schedule. Other than Sydney's dance class (which I'm still debating whether to keep her in - we have the option of switching to Wednesday's 5:15 class) AJ has no extra-curricular activities until hockey starts in November. Then it will be four months of insanity.

And so I return to the conversations with my other mom friends. Are there any parents out there who can successfully juggle a full time job and kids activities? Or are the next 10-12 years going to be a constant fly by the seat of my pants existence? I'd welcome any advice.

There are so many opportunities out there, all with the potential to be good experiences. I totally missed the sign-up for Cub Scouts, something AJ has expressed interest in doing because he has several friends who are in it. And I'm really not that sorry. There's no way he could have made the weekly meetings during hockey season. So many choices, and he's only six.

As much as I don't want to limit my kids' involvement in positive activities, I deliberately steered AJ away from another sport this past week. He brought home a sign-up sheet for basketball and said he wanted to play. Practices are Saturday mornings from 8-9 a.m. "No! No! No!" I wanted to scream. Instead, I calmly reasoned, "You could, but that would mean you wouldn't have any mornings when you could sleep in."

"Oh," AJ thought for a moment. "Let's not do it, then."

We all make choices. Hopefully the ones I've made won't land me in a mental health ward.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gus is such a guy

Who knew? Guy genes run amok in dogs too.

Gus is the worst kind of remote-hog! He doesn't just hang on to the remote. He grabs it and runs. I do give him credit for one thing, though. Gus actually found the remote he's proudly carrying. The other males in the house are far more likely to lose it.

At dinner time, he fulfilled another stereotype.

Who lays down while eating? Could he get any lazier? Is this the canine version of pigging out on the sofa while watching TV?

I've lost track of how old Gus is. (Sleep deprivation caused by a certain puppy who continues to wake up at 6:30 on weekends will do that to you.) He must be 15 or 16 weeks. His birthday is June 4. You're welcome to do the math.

He's up to 28 pounds, as of tonight. It makes me wonder which weighs more - Gus, or all the toys he's destroyed. Clearly tired of chasing Gus and prying chewed up toys from his mouth, AJ asked, "How long have we had Gus?"

"Seems like forever, doesn't it?"

So much is said about dogs' undying love and loyalty to their owners. Personally, I think it's just their way of saying, "I know I deserved it, so thank you for not strangling me as a puppy."

In the time it's taken me to write this, I've had to rescue a book, toy pirate and squirt gun from my darling little monster's destructive jaws. At least it was a Dora book of Sydney's that I secretly would appreciate never having to read again. Maybe Gus and I could work out a deal...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Who knew dishwashing could be such fun?

Someday, I am sure, we will have to yell, threaten and impose punishment to get Sydney to wash the dishes and help around the house. But right now, during the current stage in her life, it's the other way around.

"Sydney, you've washed enough dishes. Turn off the water and get down."

Someday I will question, "Did I really have to say that?"

And the answer is yes. Sydney loves scrubbing dishes, and - now that she's big enough to drag the stool across the floor, climb up and turn on the water - I've caught her more than once trying to "help" clean the dishes.

Of course a big part of the fun is the flower-covered dish brush with pink bristles we bought at Pier One Imports a few weeks ago. Flowers make everything more exciting!

It wouldn't be so bad if she actually focused on scrubbing dishes. But Sydney's cleaning process goes something like this:
  1. Turn on the water and let it run.
  2. Squirt soap onto the scrub brush.
  3. Run water over the scrub brush.
  4. Lightly scrub the brush over the dish just long enough to see a transfer of bubbles.
  5. Squirt more soap onto the scrub brush.
  6. Scrub the sides of the sink.
  7. Squirt more soap onto the scrub brush.
  8. Repeat steps 3 through 7.
Probably wouldn't pass a health code inspection. Plus, it's a huge waste of water and soap. And I'm afraid she'll accidentally bump the faucet handle to hot and burn herself. Then she'd have a legitimate excuse as a teenager to be afraid of getting her hands wet.

Two-fisting it! She's got a scrub brush in each hand as she "cleans" the muffin pan.
I can't help but note the bizarreness of her new hobby. Over the weekend I baked banana/chocolate chip muffins. Most kids (AJ included) would be excited because this means homemade goodies and a chance to lick the beater. Not Sydney. She was more excited at the thought of the dishes to wash.

Someday I'll be sure to remind her of this. Not that I expect she'll believe me.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bullies beware

Never underestimate the power of a public service announcement.

One recent evening, Sydney was playing with Gus when, as is often the case, the four-legged member of the duo got a little too wild. Sydney's whining/crying was enough to get me involved. I pulled them apart and scolded, "Gus, are you being a bully?"

Sydney, without missing a beat, responded, "We should visit bully dot com."

"What's" I asked.

Sydney recited what was no doubt the next copy line in the commercial, "Speak up against bullies."

Of course I had to tell Jeff the story. AJ happened to overhear and quickly corrected/expanded on what Sydney had told me.

"," AJ said, "Help stop bullying. Speak up. If you know somebody that's bullied, then you can help them."

I checked out the website. It's a project of (and good P-R move by) the Cartoon Network. The whole incident has me wondering if I should say "Wow!" or "Whoa!" I'm hoping that bullying isn't an issue yet for kids their age. Have times changed that much? Or am I letting my kids watch cartoons geared for a slightly older audience.

Hopefully, if ever faced with a real bullying situation, they'll recognize it. Because, assuming they do, they're now aware of how to respond.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Artistic breakthrough

I think we just might be able to skip the annual family Christmas card photo this year. We can substitute Sydney's drawing instead. It looks just like us!

Left to right, I'm pretty sure that's Jeff, Sydney, me, Gus and AJ. (Sorry, Spike. I'm sure if she knew how to draw cats, you'd totally be included. In pink.)

After weeks of drawing princesses and queens and nothing else, Sydney came home from daycare recently and excitedly announced. "Mommy, I can draw husbands now. I learned how to draw boy pants and boy shirts!"

And so tonight, desperate to stall at bedtime, Sydney demonstrated her new-found talent. And then some. Gus should feel pretty important. According to Sydney, it's the first time she's attempted to draw a dog.... with ears.

She excitedly presented us her masterpiece, and of course we praised her for her very good job. I asked if I could take a picture of it, and she agreed. But before I could get the camera out, Miss Temperamental Young Talent postponed the photo opp.

"Wait! I have to give Gus more fur!"

She then disappeared back into the office, where she apparently finds greater artistic inspiration than at her usual spot at the dining room table.

She returned shortly, at last satisfied with her work.

I don't have the heart to tell her that most boy pants aren't pink.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

All over the field

As all soccer seasons in this region seem to go, we started in late July, playing games in ridiculously hot temperatures. And here we are, less than two months later, trying to figure out how to layer their uniforms in such way to keep them warm during their time on the sidelines (it was 44 degrees by end of game), but not too hot while playing.

AJ got to play middle field at the start of the game. He likes being the one to kick first. I suspect he also likes not having to worry about where he's allowed to run. He didn't score any goals, but he's definitely a dominating player. 

Pay attention to that girl in the turquoise pants. Don't be fooled by the girlie color. She turned out to be trouble later in the game!  

At some point in the game (specifically, it was while I was trying to sneak into the school with Sydney so she could use the bathroom because the district apparently no longer feels it necessary to have a porta-potty by the soccer field) AJ switched to playing goalie.

AJ likes playing goalie. We parents were joking it was the best position to play on a cold night because it includes a long-sleeve shirt. He likes the glory of making the big - and not so big - saves. Hey, any save is good in his book! (See the top of the blond head bending down to grab the ball? Not the best photography, but way to go AJ!)

AJ recapped the game for Jeff, who'd missed it because of work, telling him he got to be goalie "for three halves!" (They generally play the kids for five minute shifts. Any other position, unless some players don't show up, the kids play every other shift. But as goalie, AJ got to play three shifts in a row.)

All together, AJ made seven saves, and allowed one goal (by that darn girl in the turquoise pants), making the final score a 1-1 tie. Ever the spin doctor, AJ informed Jeff, "But really I think we won, because we scored first and were winning the longest."

We've got one more practice and one more game, and then at last it's the best part of the season - the end of the year pizza party. Let's hope we don't have snow by then!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sugar-coated lesson

"I don't like first grade. It's too hard."

That's not AJ talking. That's me!

The note from the teacher was deceptively calming. There'd be just one homework assignment each week - to practice their list of spelling words. It'd be sent home each Monday, and would be due the following Friday. How easy is that?

And then I got a look at the assignment - multiple parts that would be too much to do in one evening. In other words, we need to practice discipline/time management and plan accordingly to do a little work throughout the week.

And somehow I still ended up having to make an emergency run to the grocery store Thursday night for supplies. On a related note, did you know they still make Alpha-Bits cereal?

To make it "fun", the assignment sheet listed in a grid nine possible spelling activities. The kids needed to do three of them. The catch is - they had to pick three activities from the grid that lined up in a row - kind of like Tic Tac Toe. AJ chose the middle box first: Write all your words forward and backward. Easy enough. (Though, wow, is that ever a painfully slow process. Thank goodness one of the words was "a". The irony of writing it the same way forward and backward is quite amusing when you're six.) Next, he surprised me by choosing to spell out his words like a cheerleader."Give me a C! Give me an A! Give me a T! What's that spell?"

With two in a row complete (we had those done by Tuesday night) that left only... of course the most complicated option in the grid. "Spell your words by arranging alphabet pasta or Alphabitz cereal."

I'm pretty sure I've never seen alphabet pasta, other than the Spaghetti-Os version, which would have been way too messy, and I can't recall the last time I saw the cereal. But I figured I could stop at a store Wednesday on my way home from work. But of course I forgot. And so suddenly it was Thursday, with the deadline looming, and our evening schedule was as follows:
  • Jeff would pick up Sydney from daycare, get her into her dance costume and drop her off at my office by 4:40 on his way to work.
  • I would then leave work early to get Sydney to dance class by 5:15. (We were four minutes late due to road construction.)
  • While Sydney was dancing, I'd leave and pick up AJ from his afterschool program and take him home to get into his soccer uniform.
  • We'd return to dance class to pick Sydney up by 6 p.m.
  • Next we'd head to the soccer field for AJ's game at 6:15. (Whew! It felt good to sit down at the game.)
Soccer game over (1-1 tie... a story for another day), we headed to the grocery store where we found, thank goodness, the very last box of Alpha-Bits. How much do you suppose this assignment boosted sales of Alpha-Bits this week?

Finally, around 8:15, we finished dinner, cleaned the table and dumped out the box of cereal in search of the necessary letters.

And that's when we made a swell discovery. Alpha-Bits include a whole lot of As, Bs, Ds and Os, but not so many of the other letters. There were no Es, Ms or Ss, forcing us to start eating parts of some of the other letters until the looked like what we needed.

Cereal spelling list at last complete, AJ headed for his room. I was feeling pretty good that we got all that accomplished and it was only 15 minutes past bedtime. 

And then, from his room, I heard the unmistakeable thump-thump-thump of Gus's clumsy footwork, followed by the rustle of paper.


I ran into the living room and discovered, as feared, Gus had stood up on his hind legs and grabbed the paper off the table, and was now happily running around the living room, shaking the prize in his mouth as he went.

And that is why AJ's very first assignment as a first grader included a note from Mom to his teacher.

"Sorry for the condition of AJ's homework assignment. The dog really did try to eat it."

Kindergarten was so much easier!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

In case you're not my Facebook friend

By that headline, I am by no means encouraging anonymous strangers to send me a friend request. It's just that I know several key followers of this blog aren't on Facebook, and I don't want them to miss a few random items I had shared there.

For instance, this past Sunday we did make it to the September 11 remembrance ceremony... sort of.

By the time soccer practice ended and we made our way through road construction, the ceremony was over. However we did happen to find this one particularly handsome officer in the parking lot who was willing to pose for a photo with us. One of these years I'll have to post each of the annual pictures I've taken. They date back to Jeff holding AJ as an infant. Kind of a weird annual tradition, I know. But then again, I'm closely related to someone who measured her children's growth by taking their picture each year by the same cemetary monument on Memorial Day.

Switching topics... here's a short glimpse at Gus' latest adventure. He's overcome his fear of that ferocious puppy he sees in the mirror. But now he's encountered a new threat... the Zhu Zhu pet. It fights back!

Speaking of Gus... and AJ... the clock is ticking on their 15 minutes of fame. My favorite freelance article ever was published last week. And now it's finally available online

And now you're up to date.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Better luck next sapling

For the sake of our region's forests, I really should just give up. The survival rate of pine saplings entrusted to my care is now 0 for 7. The latest victim? A small (n)evergreen I won at the State Fair. Sydney and I planted it together about a week ago. She was so excited! As she helped me dig a hole and water our sprout full of promise, she happily declared, "This is the first tree I've ever planted!"

Alas, like the six poor saps that have gone before it, this one, too, wasn't meant to be. Here's a photo of where it no longer is.

Most likely it fell victim to a rabbit or dear. I've made similar sacrifices the last few springs with everything from pansies to petunias to Gerber daisies. Somehow, I thought a tree would be different. After all,  I've had surprising success with the two pine trees that had a year or two head start before I attained them. Check out what they looked like three years ago, and now just look at them!  

They're growing like weeds! And I don't just mean the weeds... the kids and the trees are doing pretty well, too. The tree in the photo with Sydney reaches nearly to the top of the photo. Meanwhile. in the photo below, it's hard to tell which has grown more: AJ or the tree.

I've never noticed either of these trees damaged or even nibbled on by wildlife, so what is it about the little guy that made him too good to pass up? I think it's time to invest in a good fence.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Life goes on

Have you ever taken a picture and immediately become overwhelmed with a sense of déjà vu ? It happened to me last night during a game of front yard football.

Watching the kids tackle Jeff, with Gus happily dancing around the heap as they wrestled for the ball, I couldn't help but think back about four months, to another football game that took place on the same turf in early May. The human players were all the same, but it was a different four-legged fan. 

Oh, Maggie, how we miss you! I'd included the above photo in a blog post titled Happy Days. I'd known at the time it was a moment to count my blessings. What I didn't know is in less than 10 short days Maggie would be gone.

And here we are now with a new player in training. 

Ready or not, life goes on.

Just as summer seems to have now passed, so have the most painful days without Maggie. There have probably even been a few days when I haven't thought of her at all - most likely because I've been too busy chasing Gus.

In last night's game, Jeff had Sydney in giggles with his silly play calls. Instead of yelling "hike" at the end of a play count, he'd use a rhyming word. And that's just too funny when you're four. "47...22...Bike! 33...16... Like!"

For most of the game it was the kids teamed up against Daddy, with Gus running interference for anything that moved.

Someone needs to teach Gus his job is to retrieve the ball, not the make-do goal post.

It seems almost trivial to be reflecting on Maggie during a week when some in our nation are asking whether it's time to end the annual September 11 commemorations and move on. But that debate, too, seems silly to me. Life goes on, whether we want it to or not. And that's a good thing. Because you never know when a new joy is out there, just waiting to be embraced.

At the same time, we should never forget those people, and events (and animals, too) who helped shape who we are and how we look at our world. 

I am again counting my blessings.